Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Who's That Girl?

Quien es esa nina, who's that girl
Senorita, mas fina, who's that girl
Quien es esa nina, who's that girl
Senorita, mas fina, who's that girl - Madonna, "Who's That Girl?"

One morning a few months ago, I opened Facebook and saw the photo on the left.

Published recently on FB by Australian photographer John Gollings and taken many years ago. Captioned quite aptly, "a baby kate juliff doing a bit of 60's modeling".

I didn't know her. I looked closely. Stunned. Was that really me? My god.
Certainly Wilde was right when he said, "Youth is wasted on the young."

A closer look and I recognize the setting. Macarthur Place, Carlton. The era? "The summer of love". The guy trying to look like Pride and Prejudice's Mr Darcy? I have absolutely no memory of him.

I remember the dress though. I made it myself - yellow and white gingham - right down to the fabric-covered buttons. Despite what the millennials think of us baby boomers now, we didn't have it easy. No lattes for us. We drank tea we made ourselves in teapots. Ate meals we cooked at home. Or didn't.

Who's that girl? What was I thinking when the photo was taken? Trying to look virginal and demure. Sadly, I was probably both...

Who's that girl? What did she eat for breakfasts back then? Was she happy? I know she had a lover. Where is he now? In Spain I think. I left him in London. In the grey suburb of Golders Green. I remember he was sad when I told him I was leaving. I also remember being rather puzzled. "Why was he sad?" I wondered. Unfeeling girl.

Had I no compassion? No feelings?

No, that wasn't it. I just didn't "get" love.

I have thought about that scene, the leaving-my-first-love scene many times over the past too-many decades, and I always come to the same conclusion as to why I didn't "get" his sorrow.

It was,  I firmly believe,  because I was brought up fatherless. The little I remember of the brief periods when my parents were together was of late nights when they were screaming at each other.

I remember my mother at midnight, digging like a mad woman in the garden. Burying some record she'd bought for my father - hiding it  because she had found out he was screwing my third grade teacher.

I thought there were no happy marriages. That it was all come and go, with the emphasis on the go. I didn't think that men had feelings.

Who's that girl?
I try to get inside her mind.

I sit in my Manhattan apartment, thinking of her. She was beautiful and innocent and had her whole life ahead of her.

Who's that girl?

I don't know that girl.

I wish her well, and adieu.

MacArthur's Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet, green icing flowing down
Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don't think that I can take it '
Cause it took so long to bake it
And I'll never have that recipe again
Oh no! - Richard Harris, "MacArthur Park"

Friday, May 19, 2017

Hey ! Mister Tangerine Man

Dedicated to Bill Maher who reminds us, "We Are Still Here!"

(Apologies to Bob Dylan....)

Hey ! Mr Tangerine Man, stay away from me
I'm not happy but there is no place I'm going to
Hey ! Mr Tangerine Man, stay away from me
On that jingle jangled Tuesday I did not vote for you.

Though I know that your hoped-for empire has turned into sand
Vanished from your little hand
Left workers blindly blind to stand  by you while still naively hoping
My amazement amazes me, I'm branded on my feet
I have others like me to greet
And the old Rust Belt streets are too dead for dreaming.

Hey ! Mr Tangerine Man, stay away from me
I'm not happy but there is no place I'm going to
Hey ! Mr Tangerine Man, stay away from me
On that jingle jangled Tuesday I did not vote  for you.

Don't take me on a rip around your madman psycho trip
My senses have been stripped, my mind can't grasp your grip
My toes too numb to step, wait only for my boot heels
To be wanderin'
I'm ready to go anywhere, I'm ready for to fade
Into my own parade, but you won't have your way
I promise I will stay.

Hey ! Mr Tangerine Man, play a song for me
I'm not happy but there is no place I'm going to
Hey ! Mr Tangerine Man, stay away from me
On that jingle jangled Tuesday I did not vote  for you.

Though you might imagine laughin', spinnin' swingin' madly 'cos you won
It's not aimed at anyone, it's just escapin' on the run
And  for southern states there are no walls a-facin'
And if you hear vague traces of skippin' reels of rhyme
In your tangerine mind, it's just your ragged clown inside
I wouldn't pay it any mind, it's just a shadow that you're
Livin' and it's failing.

Hey ! Mr Tangerine Man, stay away from me
I'm not happy but there is no place I'm going to
Hey ! Mr Tangerine Man, stay away from me
On that jingle jangled Tuesday I did not vote  for you.

From the Union Square Subway Therapy Wall 11/16
Then keep me disappearin' from the smoke rings of your mind
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the climate change
The wasted, leaf-burnt trees, out to the shrinking beach
Far from the twisted reach of our tomorrow
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the weeping sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today and all our sorrow.

Hey ! Mr Tangerine Man, stay away from me
I'm not happy but there is no place I'm going to
Hey ! Mr Tangerine Man, stay away from me
On that jingle jangled Tuesday I did not vote  for you.


RESIST!!!! Stay!!! WE ARE STILL HERE!!!
.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

On tiny hands, elves, and other small things

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!" - Jabberwocky, Lewis Carroll 1872

I read the news today, and to quote one of my favorite people, "Oh boy!"

Amongst other things, a story about a grandmother in Brazil who has been mistakenly been praying to an elf for many years.

Apparently she believed the little statue she was praying to  was of Saint Anthony of Padua, when in fact it was of a "Lord of the Rings" elf named  Elrond.

Also in the news - another small thing - well maybe not so small, but the representation of a small thing. A Prozac pill. The late Carrie Fisher's ashes  were carried to her final resting place in a Prozac-shaped urn.

A respectful and generous act by her family - acknowledging her life-long work in getting the illness of depression accepted as such; attempting to de-stigmatize people who in many cases have to bear this illness in varying degrees for their entire lives.

Elves, Prozac pills. little hands - well I will get to the little hands L8R ...

Other little things - our new social media icons and acronyms. WFT? We don't need words anymore. Are we going back to ancient Egyptian times when we think and write in hieroglyphs? That is what I am thinking ATM.

One can write a whole sentence in emojis and TLAs. Or announce United States policy using abbreviations in order to tweet a spur of the moment thought in 140 characters.

But no, I don't want to think about it. I don't want to think about those little hands tapping out U.S foreign policy at 3 a.m. from a tall golden tower in his Manhattan elf-land.

Let's hope that Brazilian grandma keeps on a-praying!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

William

Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number - from "Dylan's "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall"

Second Avenue Upper East Side - William's home
I have decided to write a journal. My blog days are over.

It is just too difficult to get a single theme per post, and in any case I have been inspired by Helen Garner's "Everywhere I Look" - a collection of her essays and journal entries spanning fifteen years.

Haiku-like they evoke a period, a point of view, a piece of news, a family memory, with the last line or paragraph giving the reader a feeling of edginess, of a thing un-finished or a counterpoint. Always something more to think about,  to ponder.

Well I am no Helen Garner, but I think a diary or journal is more appropriate for me, at this stage of my life, and at this stage of society's devolution in the Divided States of America.

So today I want to write about William.

I only found out his name today, when I brought him a cup of hot chocolate from Starbucks.

I'd gone outside to see if he was still there, homeless at his home outside the Chase Bank on the corner of Second Avenue and 93rd Street Manhattan - worried as the city was under a weather advisory. It had snowed all night. William lives on the sidewalk 

I didn't expect to find him there this morning, with the snow and all, but there he was.

I asked him what I could get him today and he said, "Hot chocolate." Well I knew other people, neighbors, often bought him breakfast from McDonald's so I asked him where from - dreading to have to trudge up to McDonald's in East Harlem through the snow-laden footpaths. But he said he would like Starbucks hot chocolate - only two doors away.

I didn't know his name, though I have been stopping by regularly. William is a Reader and is particularly fond of John Grisham thrillers. I have given him some novels, but whatever I give him he has already read. There's an admirable honesty about William. Some people would just say "Thanks", but William always says, "Oh that is kind of you, but I have read it." He is specific in what he wants. And why not?

Today, when I brought him his Starbuck's hot chocolate, I asked him his name. It is William. "My dad was called William," I said, but he was too busy opening up the lid of his hot chocolate.

I thought of my dad as I walked back home. I remember being told how he - always a heavy smoker - unemployed and walking the streets of Collingwood in Melbourne in the 1930s - would look for the buts of cigarettes.

I don't know how my William survived the Great Depression. But he did, although the cigarettes killed him in the end.

Two Williams - decades apart. But the times, they aren't a-changing.